Fury spread across the streets of Paris on Friday as angry protesters disrupted traffic and set cars and barricades ablaze as a controversial bill to raise the retirement age was forced through parliament without a vote.
Several cars were torched in Paris and other French cities in the evening during demonstrations involving several thousand people. Trade unions mobilised workers to briefly block a Paris ring road.
Angry critics, political opponents and labor unions around France all blasted President Emmanuel Macron‘s for his decision to ram the bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through the legislature.
Opposition parties are expected to start procedures later today for a no confidence vote on the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
The vote would likely take place early next week.
A barricade burns as protesters block the traffic on Paris’ peripheral boulevard in the morning hours to distribute flyers against the French government’s pension reform
A cyclist drives past full waste bins in Paris’ 2nd district as rubbish collectors strike against pension reforms leaving many streets in the capital piled with stinking waste
People wave General Confederation of Labour unions (CGT) flags as they block the traffic on Paris’ peripheral boulevard
Macron ordered Borne on Thursday to wield a special constitutional power to push the highly unpopular pension bill through without a vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.
His calculated risk infuriated opposition lawmakers, many citizens and unions.
The French are deeply attached to keeping the official retirement age at 62, which is among the lowest in European countries.
More than eight out of 10 people are unhappy with the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament, and 65 per cent want strikes and protests to continue, a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for RTL radio showed.
On Thursday, thousands gathered in protest Thursday at the Place de la Concorde, which faces the National Assembly building.
As night fell, police officers charged the demonstrators in waves to clear the Place.
Small groups then moved through nearby streets in the chic Champs-Elysees neighborhood, setting street fires.
Similar scenes repeated themselves in numerous other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed, local French media reported.
The Eiffel Tower is seen while protesters set fire as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration against French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age
Protesters set fire as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration against plans to raise the retirement age
Demonstration in Paris take place at Place de la Concorde, following the use of Article 49.3 to validate the government’s pension reform
Protestors chant against the French Government during demonstrations at Place de la Concorde
Clashes take place during a demonstration against French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age in Paris
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL on Friday that 310 people were arrested overnight. A total of 258 of the arrests were made in Paris, according to Darmanin.
The trade unions that had organized strikes and marches against a higher retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the days ahead.
‘This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers,’ they declared.
Macron has made the proposed pension changes the key priority of his second term, arguing that reform is needed to make the French economy more competitive and to keep the pension system from diving into deficit. France, like many richer nations, faces lower birth rates and longer life expectancy.
Macron decided to invoke the special power during a Cabinet meeting a few minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation had no guarantee of securing majority support. The Senate adopted the bill earlier Thursday.
Protesters participate in a demonstration against French government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age
Protesters set fire as clashes take place with riot police during a demonstration
Riot police advance as clashes take place during a demonstration in Paris last night
CGT unionists light flares on the ring road as they block the traffic to protest
Opposition lawmakers demanded the government to step down. If the expected no confidence motion passes, which requires approval from more than half of the Assembly, it would be a first since 1962 and force the government to resign. It would also spell the end Macron’s retirement reform plan.
Macron could reappoint Borne if he chooses, and a new Cabinet would be named. If the motion does not succeed, the pension bill would be considered adopted.
Addressing the protests, hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said: ‘Something fundamental happened, and that is that, immediately, spontaneous mobilisations took place throughout the country.’
‘It goes without saying that I encourage them, I think that’s where it’s happening.’